What Is Nyctophobia?
Nyctophobia is where a person fears darkness and night. This fear can be promoted by a person’s thoughts or expectation of being in dark. People who are scared of darkness avoid working at night or engaging in any activity when it is dark. 1
Nyctophobia is more common in children. Studies have shown that at least 90% of the children go through intense fear of darkness and night. This situation can become severe if a child is not treated and may affect the him/her in adulthood.
The following are some causes of nyctophobia particularly in children:
A disturbing experience
Any disturbing or traumatic event associated with darkness and night is the cause of nyctophobia in people especially in children. For instances, a child who experienced traumatic events in darkness or night such as rape, being attacked and accident may develop this phobia.
Also a child who has been tortured by parents or kidnappers in a dark room may grow up with nyctophobia. These experiences create disturbing memories and thoughts about how dangerous night and darkness can be.
Any form of mental illness can promote phobia in an individual. People with persistent depression or stress have very weak mind energy. This makes depressed individuals vulnerable to any form of phobia. For instance, stressed people can become nyctophobic when left alone in a dark place like a room.
Some of the common symptoms nyctophobic people manifest includes:
- People are too unease when they are in dark places or at night.
- Some people need lighting throughout the night to be comfortable and others can avoid dark places completely.
- People also develop intense fear of dark places and night which cannot be explained.
- Nyctophobic people can panic whenever they are in darkness or at night. This can be easily noticed when a person is shaking, have trouble breathing properly, sweating, unable to concentrate, numbness around limbs and feeling dizzy.
When to see a Health Professional?
Nyctophobia can become severe when left untreated for a long time. People with this type of phobia avoid dark places and fear getting involved in night activities. If you notice these symptoms are persistent, seek medical attention or refer that person to a doctor for help.3
Nyctophobia can be controlled through a combination of several therapies and medicines. The following can be used:
Exposing nyctophobic people to the trigger is the most effective form of treatment to control this type of phobia. In this method, the therapist exposes an individual to darkness and assesses the response of the person.
Once the therapist has studies your reaction to darkness, he or she can teach the following techniques to help you cope with darkness:
This technique allows you to identify your thoughts and feelings without reacting emotionally to them. Your therapist can teach you how to focus your mind on positive scene or thoughts as well as how to identify other thoughts. This technique also helps you forget past events and focus on the present only.
Breathing is considered as a catapult to all symptoms of anxiety. Therefore when you learn how to control your breathing, you are able to manage those anxiety symptoms. Your therapist can help you learn how to breathe in for 10 counts and breathe out slowly. Breathing control would help you relax in a dark places and control phobia of darkness.
Visualization is an act of seeing or imagining you are in a safe place. Your therapist can help you select the right place where you feel comfortable without any disturbance.
Once, you found that perfect place, your therapist teaches to imagine you are in dark place, what you can see in darkness. At first you may find it difficult to think about darkness but this is not for instant results. You have to practice this regularly to achieve results.
Mind visualization is a cure for nyctophobia. This technique helps you to cope with phobia whenever you are in darkness or at night.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
This aims at understanding your negative thoughts and the way you react to darkness and night. Your therapist will help you identify your limiting thoughts about darkness and night by doing the following:
Cognitive restructuring or thought challenging
This process involves you challenging your negative thoughts that trigger phobia of darkness and night and replace them with positive thoughts. This process has three steps that your therapist will guide you through. These steps include:
Step 1: Identify negative thoughts
With phobia, situations are considered more frightening. Your therapist guides you to identify scary thoughts about darkness and night. You will be asked to state exactly your thoughts about darkness and night.
Step 2: Challenge your negative thoughts
In this step your therapist helps you to assess your negative thoughts. You will be asked to provide evidence of your phobia of darkness and night. Your therapist evaluates any of your beliefs about darkness and night and tests them to determine their truth.
Your therapist evaluates the merits and demerits of your phobia of darkness and night or avoiding it. Your therapist also determine the likelihood of your phobia occurring.
Step 3: Turn those negative thoughts to realistic thoughts
Once you have identified limiting thoughts, you can replace them with sensible and positive thoughts. Your therapist will assist you come up with practical and positive statements you can say to yourself when confronted with phobia of darkness and night.
In case nyctophobia is very severe, you can seek medical attention. Your doctor may prescribe antidepressant medications to treat depression and stress if you have them. Some of the antidepressant drugs your doctor can recommend include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as paroxetine and escitalopram
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) such as desvenlafaxine
- Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs) such as bupropion.
Nyctophobia can become severe and affect children, adult and those close to them. Seeking professional treatment from a competent therapist can help you manage phobia of darkness and night.
- Nyctophobia. http://www.primehealthchannel.com/nyctophobia.html
- Nyctophobia. http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/13977/1/Nyctophobia–Scared-of-the-Dark.html